MMORTS balance and control

One last thought before the day ends.

One of the things that seems overwhelming to me in most RTSs is that things last forever. That or they need repair at extremely incredible rates (thinking of stuff in Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, here).

The thing that allows players in so many games to amass HUGE forces is that it’s mostly a one-time cost. Buy it and that’s pretty much it. At worst (most of the time) you need to provide ammo, maybe fuel.

There are (notionally) realistic maintenance costs for most major items. I helped research and generalize the costs of a lot of things when helping with AV:T, and have a lot of those notes. It’s a very potent control, and much of it can be done invisibly to the player if he or she wants it to be invisible. Need some extra cash right now for an extra cruiser? Sure, just defer maintenance on the Zum class destroyers for a year. Just don’t keep doing that or suddenly they’ll start failing and it’ll cost you a LOT more than you can afford.

Worth noting that maintenance comes in two forms: maint during operations, and depot maintenance. The latter is pulling it offline for an extended time. For ships this is going into drydock. It may be shutting down for major renovations, replacement of presses or assemblers, etc. Basically, for a while the object is offline, and if it’s an emergency you might be able to get it now (for various values of now) but it won’t be at 100%.

Thing is this can be done by the computer for the most part, and available to the player only if wanted.

A reminder: I’m tentatively running with a 10:1 timescale. On the one hand I need it to be fast enough that Things Get Done for players. On the other I need combats to be long enough a player can give a command or two in the middle. Based on AV:T experience a duel is only going to take two or three ‘real’ minutes once the shooting starts – call it 15 seconds or so. Squadron and task force engagements will take longer, but still only a handful of player minutes at 10:1. On the other hand there’s a LOT of pre-shooting dance time. I’m figuring players can take that opportunity to reorganize, give target orders and priorities, etc.

One more control. Crews will have morale. I think it’s fairly simple to model, and lets me add a lot of niggly bits later to influence it. Ships don’t fight to the death. They fight till they can’t fight or till morale breaks. A ship’s crew that breaks either flees or surrenders. Same thing can happen with hazardous condition colonies (space habitats and domes, mainly), and (with more complication) planets. Morale will also play in controlling the empire. One of the kickers I expect to have in the game – probably as an addition – is rebellion. The more unhappy the populace the more likely they try to separate. It’s more complex than Sid Meiers put in Civilization, and yet the basic idea applies.

Yes, that means a later yet upgrade is the ability to insert units specifically intended to increase rebellion. I’ve already decided that’s “later” – it’s planned, but not scheduled.

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